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  • Paul I. Menes

Life (and Death) Happens When You’re Making Other Plans

My oldest and closest friend used to say: “Our time on Earth is the vacation, so we better enjoy all of it. When we die, we go back to work”.

Yes, it’s a little twisted, but he was spot-on. We’ve all too soon lost people close to us in one way or another, be they family and friends we love, or talented people who created content, characters, or music we enjoyed. This became too common because of COVID.

It should remind us that no one knows how long they’re here for and we need to make the most of all of it. It did remind me of an experience I wanted to share.

Before COVID shut down life as we knew it, my sweetheart and I were able to take our first real vacation in almost three years. Nine days on the Big Island of Hawaii. We both had some work we had to take care of during that time, but made each other and ourselves promises that we wouldn’t let it distract us the entire trip.

Like a lot of us, I’ve been guilty of embarking on a vacation, activity, or even a few minutes of downtime, only to feel some regret or remorse that I didn’t enjoy it to its fullest because I was preoccupied by what was waiting for me back home or at the office. So, when doing “vacation stuff”, we vowed to be 100% into it, so we could recharge, relax, rethink, contemplate, experience new things, and ponder new possibilities—the reasons for being on vacation in the first place.

One of the things we did there was to go on what was billed as one of the most beautiful, longest, and highest zipline courses in the world. It runs through a protected rainforest, including one segment that was over 1,200 feet long, where you’re sliding 600 feet above a lush gorge bisected by a river and huge multi- level waterfall almost impossible to access any other way.

It was awesome! While taking in as much of it as I could once I left the take-off tower, I regretted how fast I was zipping above it, and how the loud, high-pitched whine of the steel rollers on the steel zipline cable pretty much drowned out all other sounds.

It reminded me about how so many of us live our lives. We’re constantly in motion, speeding from one place or task to another, and not appreciating and enjoying the moments and activities we intentionally take to do just that.

I was so preoccupied with that thought that I didn’t stick my landing on the landing platform at the end of that segment. That caused me to slide backward down the zipline to its lowest point—about 500 feet back into the gorge, right over the waterfall.

So, there I was -- dangling from a cable 600 feet up, with no way on my own to get down or back to either the take-off or landing tower.

Candidly, I was a little freaked at first. But, when I remembered I was locked to the zipline and not going anywhere for a while, it dawned on me how truly fortunate my predicament was. I had no choice but to totally relax, let go (not of the zipline) and drink it all in. I hung there in total silence except for the sound of birds and rushing water. I was taking slow deep breaths of the incredible clean, flower-scented air. I could rotate 360 degrees and see vistas I couldn’t while zipping.

I hung there for about twenty blissful minutes until one of our guides could slide down and get me, and have us both reeled back to the landing tower.

I jokingly asked him if they were going to charge extra for my little “side trip”. I seriously suggested I thought it would make a very cool addition to that zipline experience, as it made me totally immerse myself in the moment and the experience, instead of just zipping through it.

My zipline experience reminded me that no matter what, we all need to periodically escape the rigors of our day-to-day lives and responsibilities, by engaging in activities that make us chill, be mindful, recharge, rethink, ponder, gain perspective, and enjoy them to their fullest while we’re in them. It doesn’t matter if it’s a vacation, a few hours of a museum, sport or hobby, or even a minute or two of mindfulness, meditation, music, or other tranquility. What matters is that the time be enjoyed and totally immersive.

So, regularly and completely enjoy your “vacation” here because, like for so many others, it can time out too soon.

Just Sayin’ … TM

(C) 2021 Paul I. Menes

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